College Freshman Killed by Campus Police
An 18-year old student at the University of Cincinnati was killed this weekend after being stunned by a police taser. Everette Howard, a student in a summer program preparing him for college, died after the attack. Friends say that Howard was trying to break up a fight in front of a dorm when campus police arrived on the scene.
Witnesses also say that Howard collapsed after being hit with the taser.
"The whole university is distraught," said UC Assistant Dean of Students Dawn Wilson. "I just wanted to be here to express my support to students and my condolences to his friends and family and the people who loved him."
Howard had a bright future ahead of him and appeared to be an emerging campus leader. He was attending a UC summer program to help him succeed in college and his academic mentor claims that the young man stood out from the crowd.
"He was probably the most talented student as far as writing skills, oral, leadership; anytime I had trouble with the rest of the group he would help me out," said Ekundayo Igeleka.
"The world didn’t get to see who he really was, to fully develop into the man he could have been," Igeleka said.
The officer who stunned Howard has been put on paid administrative leave until further investigation.
When I first read about the death of Everette Howard, my brain sifted through the 20-years I’ve spent on various college campuses. I thought about how campus police tend to respond differently to gatherings of black students than white ones. The white kids have their own way of getting entirely out of control, with drugs and alcohol flowing with the power of the Mississippi river, but I almost never hear of any white student being killed by campus police.
I also think of my own experience as a black man on a college campus, like the night that I’d slept over in my graduate school office to prepare for an exam. After seeing me there after hours, a police officer came into the office and questioned me. A conversation that should have taken just two minutes ended as a 30-minute interrogation by a white man who somehow didn’t buy into the notion that a black man might be staying up all night to prepare for a Math test.
Finally, I think about the city of Cincinnati, which is one of the most racially-backward communities in America. The city has a horrific record of killing black men and at one point, police had killed over seven black men without killing a single white male. The city needs help in the racial justice department, and this incident is not going to help.
My thoughts also go to the other side of the equation, particularly when I read about Mr. Howard’s past. Howard was also struck by an officer’s taser in a separate incident back in 2010. In both cases, officers claimed that the young man didn’t appear to be in his right mind. In fact, in the first incident, the officer said that Howard jumped from his chair and growled at police before being brought down.
We have to accept the possibility that Howard may have done something to lead to an aggressive response by police officers. It’s not normal for any 18-year old to have been tased twice in two separate incidents. Minds should be left open as the situation is investigated, for an officer with a taser is not likely looking to kill anyone.
We are left disturbed, however, by the numerous situations in which law-abiding citizens are arrested or beaten by police for simply intervening in an incident or asking the police officer questions that they don’t feel compelled to answer. Such incidents are a disturbing assault on American civil liberties.
College is a place to make all your dreams come true. But it can also serve as an incubator for your worst nightmares. No matter who is at fault in this incident (the police have a lot of explaining to do), the tragedy is that an 18-year old man with a very bright future is not going to live the life he’d planned.
We’ve got to find a way to protect our kids on campus.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Syracuse University Professor and author of the book, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About College.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.